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Kiln People

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In a perilous future where disposable duplicate bodies fulfill every legal and illicit whim of their decadent masters, life is cheap. No one knows that better than Albert Morris, a brash investigator with a knack for trouble, who has sent his own duplicates into deadly peril more times than he cares to remember.

But when Morris takes on a ring of bootleggers making illegal copies of a famous actress, he stumbles upon a secret so explosive it has incited open warfare on the streets of Dittotown.

Dr. Yosil Maharal, a brilliant researcher in artificial intelligence, has suddenly vanished, just as he is on the verge of a revolutionary scientific breakthrough. Maharal's daughter, Ritu, believes he has been kidnapped--or worse. Aeneas Polom, a reclusive trillionaire who appears in public only through his high-priced platinum duplicates, offers Morris unlimited resources to locate Maharal before his awesome discovery falls into the wrong hands.

To uncover the truth, Morris must enter a shadowy, nightmare world of ghosts and golems where nothing--and no one--is what they seem, memory itself is suspect, and the line between life and death may no longer exist.

569 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

David Brin

319 books3,074 followers
David Brin is a scientist, speaker, and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Existence, his latest novel, offers an unusual scenario for first contact. His ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web. A movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. Startide Rising won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. The Uplift War also won the Hugo Award.

His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with secrecy in the modern world. It won the Freedom of Speech Prize from the American Library Association.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI, nanotechnology, and philanthropy.

David appears frequently on TV, including "The Universe" and on the History Channel's "Life After People."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 355 reviews
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews782 followers
June 11, 2017
“Sometimes you’re the grasshopper. Some the ant. The difference now is that now you can be both, the very same day.”*

That quote sums up the basic theme of Kiln People nicely. This was going to be my last book of 2015 but I underestimated its length. From the synopsis I expected it to be a quick, breezy fun read, but when I downloaded it on my Kindle I was surprised to find it's almost 600 pages long. A lot of it is still quite fun though, but it did outstay its welcome a little.

Kiln People hits the ground running with a very fragile non-human protagonist being chased and shot at by thugs, while his body is falling apart for some reason, with bits dropping off and limbs melting. From this gripping beginning, Brin skilfully introduces the concept of soul duplication where people commonly use a machine to create “dittos” or “golems” of themselves to send on errands, dangerous missions, and basically anything they don't want to do themselves. In Brin's words:
“A technology that lets people do all the things they want to do, all at the same time.”

Art by SharksDen (brilliant Chinese artist)

These golems have a lifespan of one day, after which their clay bodies begin to disintegrate. Their creators get to enjoy their golems’ experiences for themselves when these golems return to upload their experiences to them. In this way, the golems also get to live on as their souls reunite with their creator. Some golems are flawed copies and become “frankies”, named after Frankenstein, where the golems ignore their creator‘s instructions and simply wander off to live their single day lives the way they want to. I like the idea of different grades of golems, colour coded to indicate their grade; the green ones being the cheapest and most fragile, the gray ones more resilient and with a higher brain capacity, the top of the line black ones more capable and intelligent than their creators.

Kiln People is a good example of high concept sci-fi where a single conceit is the basis of the entire storyline. I love this kind of setup when it is done well. It works well for sci-fi because the author can introduce a single outlandish technology and explore the hell out of it from all angles, looking at every possible implication of this world changing invention; from scientific, social and even philosophical point of view. This kind of sci-fi tends to be — more often than not — thought experiments rather than a prediction or projection of a possible future.

In this instance Kiln People’s basic idea enables Brin to look at the existential quandaries faced by the golems who are - by design - very short lived. I believe this book is partly an allegory for our responsibility for our children or even subordinates at work. Brin also looking at prejudice and how we often look down upon those from lower social strata. The allegories would be worthless without an engaging story to carry them, Brin is a talented storyteller and for the most part able to maintain my interest. However, I do find the book to be a little overlong, especially the last 50 or so pages which read like an overextended epilogue and a climax which takes a turn for the psychedelic and surreal. There are a little too many characters to keep track of for my liking, though the main ones are reasonably well developed. The prose is generally fine if unremarkable but I do like the narrative technique of switching from the protagonist's point of view to several of his golems. They start off as essentially the same people and their personalities gradually diverge.

In general Kiln People is well worth reading for the fascinating concept, world building and philosophical issues it tackles. It is a more serious work than I was expecting. Personally, I wish it was around 200 pages shorter so the story would be tighter. As it is I can recommend it with the caveat that you expect to spend more time and effort in reading it than you would expect from the synopsis.


* This quote needs some clarification if you haven't read the book. What it means is that some days you wake up as you, a normal human being, other days you wake up inside the duplication machine as a golem. This is not literally the case of course, the golem has your memory and personality so when the book's point of view switches to him as the narrator he will feel that he is the ant - the inferior one - for the day.

I haven't read John Scalzi's Lock In yet so I don't know how similar it is. Both books play with the idea of living life vicariously through an artificial construct but the details and slant of the storyline seem to be very different.

The movie Surrogates (2009) has a very similar premise to Kiln People but the implications of the technology is not explored in any real depth.

This review was entirely written on a smartphone. If you can avoid doing that, do.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews428 followers
July 24, 2021
-Interesante en cuanto al decorado y sus implicaciones.-

Edición en español (2003)

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro Gente de barro (publicación original: Kiln People, 2002) nos lleva a una sociedad en la que, tras el descubrimiento de la Onda Establecida en la función neuronal y el desarrollo de la tecnología de las copiadoras-horno, ha permitido crear copias de las personas con fecha de caducidad muy corta y diferentes capacidades, calidades e incluso aspectos que, tras un volcado, pueden compartir sus experiencias y recuerdos con el ser humano original del que han sido generadas. El detective Albert Morris, detective privado con mucha experiencia en las infracciones de la propiedad intelectual, se ve envuelto en una investigación que implica a la plana mayor de Hornos Universales, la corporación líder en la idemtecnología.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Joel.
554 reviews1,622 followers
February 11, 2011

I like sci-fi, but man, a lot of these dudes are long-winded (and how do they manage to write so freaking many books regardless? Fantasy authors too especially). I picked this one up because it was lauded and I loved the concept: a future society where people sit on their asses on the couch and send out disposable one-use-only clones (made out of clay and color-coded based on brain power and durability, from dumb-as-Gumby Greens to sleek, efficient Ebonies) to do the stuff they don't want to do: go to work, run errands, walk the dog. Then the clones, already starting to break down, come home and upload their memories to the main user and voila! A whole day's work AND you got to watch The View.

Though there are some nifty ideas at work (what if the clone decides he doesn't want to run your errands? what would a religion that catered to creations that live only a day look like?), they aren't nearly interesting enough to support a 600-page book, at least when they've been wrapped in a smartass whodunnit with too many shifting points-of-view (which are technically the same point-of-view since the clones all have identical memories to begin with, argh).

I read about a third of it, didn't care enough to find out what was going to happen. Who knows, maybe it got really cool at the end. Still probably wasn't as cool as this.
124 reviews12 followers
March 17, 2008
I was really disappointed with this book.

The concept is fun at first. It explores some interesting issues with identity and individuality and so on. Since there's a mystery going on, it reminded me of Asimov's robot mysteries, except here you've got dittos instead of robots.

The first problem that shows up is that it becomes pretty hard to keep track of who's who. Albert creates several dittos, and each chapter tracks one of them. It's hard to remember which ditto did what.

The real problem for me, though, was that about halfway through the book it all falls apart. It descends into all this metaphysical nonsense. The story gets more and more complicated and basically impossible to keep track of. It kept feeling like the book surely had to be about to end, but there were still hundreds of pages left! I had no interest in the last 200 pages; I don't know why I finished it.
Profile Image for Ric.
390 reviews39 followers
March 2, 2012
In the rarified sub-genre of SF doppelgangers, this must be, I am sure, a favorite. Years after I first read this book, I am still thinking about it, so there must be something here.

David Brin writes the story tongue-in-cheek (I mean baking yourself a duplicate is kinda outrageous, isn't it?), but without descending into parody or outright silliness. In fact he keeps a straight face throughout the book, and stays on the main theme, which is an interesting mystery tale, sufficient onto itself in terms of story-telling value. (Somehow, this approach reminds me of Vernor Vinge's Marooned In Real Time, a 5-star book based on those absurd bobbles.) Also, Brin doesn't take the extrapolation of the central premise too far, avoiding the pitfall of writing in thousands of additional words of "explanation." All that works for me, though I realize this may be a minority view.

I am somewhat longing for a sequel, but am ambivalent on this. Sometimes, a bad sequel could wreck the mystique of the original. In any case, wholeheartedly, thanks for writing this book, Dr. Brin.

Profile Image for Denis.
Author 1 book19 followers
December 4, 2020
Clearly, David Brin is a titan in the field. I absolutely loved "The Postman", however, I did not love "The Uplift War" novels I have read - I do plan to revisit those at some time and re-evaluate. "The Kiln People" is a most peculiar idea and I did buy into it from the start. I will never forget this book, that's for sure, but I have to say, at 600 plus pages, it was way way too much for such a thing. Why Brin felt a need to fill it with so much introspective thought, over explaining every detail, action, motivation and revelation. It went on and on, while an attempt was clearly made for leaning on the humorous side, which suited the overall idea quite well, it was simply mushed over by all the extra said wordage, which made it difficult to follow.

Recommended, but in this case, dare I say, an abridged version would actually be an improvement.
Profile Image for That70sheidi.
170 reviews15 followers
June 25, 2012
As an inherently lazy person - deeply, happily lazy - the idea of Kiln People appeals to me. Someone to do my laundry, awesome! However....

What started as an interesting story with some cool plot twirls turned into a plodding, pedantic, slit-your-wrists boring slodge about halfway through. I would say about half of the book could be cut without any loss in part because of all the repetition (hey guess what there's stockpiled food here for government officials to eat in case of holocaust, hey, look, it's that freeze-dried food, oh and hey check this out it's a wall of food for elites during an emergency, but wait let me throw in another funny fresh quip about our tax dollars at work har har you can relate right?).

Some of the repetition at the beginning is great because it establishes how precisely alike the ditto copies are when they come out of the kiln, but when you're midway through the book and each of those copies has to rehash everything that's happened over the last two days for the third time in as many pages it gets tiresome.

The other BIG issue - needlessly expositing about technology and scientists we do not and will never have - just slows down the pace. There's awesome action/adventure momentum and then slam, the reader is shoved into a wall of painful philosophy loaded with too many examples: it's not just mountains and molehills, and the sea and a teacup, and a zebra and a giraffe, and a flea and a dinosaur, and a blade of grass and a golf course lawn, and an atom and a white dwarf, it's all of them together EACH TIME there's some sort of poetic comparison or contrast or whatever the hell the author is nattering on about while I just want to get back to what is happening with all the Alberts!

SO MUCH boring crap stuffed in around the frame of great characters and fairly intriguing motives made this a really, really, really long book.
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,075 reviews336 followers
July 28, 2015
This is a brilliant and clever book. Science fiction books set in the future generally touch on one science technology - i.e. nanotechnology, rejuvenation/arresting aging, robotics, and so on. This book presents a unique idea I've never seen before, that of golems - temporary clones of oneself that people can use to get more stuff done. Heck, there are special golems for different tasks, like studying, or physical labor. A lot of thought went into this book, making for a completely unique and clever story. A+, would recommend for any sci fi fan.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,115 reviews153 followers
November 16, 2007
5 Stars don't seem enough for this one. Such realistic science, you expect to see this capability in the near future. Believable and edge of the seat action.
Profile Image for Rindis.
412 reviews48 followers
December 5, 2018
Okay, I have some problems with the basic premises here. Technology for scanning your personality, your soul, and imprinting it on a disposable clay-like... 'golem' who is effectively a mental duplicate of you, is so cheap that sending it out to do a classic 9-to-5 job for you will earn noticeably more than the cost of the 'ditto'. This is complicated by the fact that these dittoes are good for about a day, so doing the above job means a new ditto every day.

All this has profound social implications, which are already in the novel's past: apparently most of the population is effectively out of work; out-competed by people who can do a few things well enough to be the 'specialist' in various mundane tasks and send as many dittoes out as needed to get it all done. There's still localism, as you can't do any of this by remote, and in some places they hire a bunch of different people, and in some all the same person. This is discussed some, but not really seen, as the characters involved are all in the realm of the Gainfully Employed.

So, the world building is really what happens to society after this happens, and short of the fact that these golems would have to be impossibly cheap, works well. Meanwhile, the actual plot follows the adventures of Albert Morris, a private eye, over about a four-day period. All the story is told through his viewpoint, or his various dittos', and uses the device that he habitually records notes of everything as he goes, and everything is pulled from there, or from his own memories. If something happens that those can't be recovered, then that viewpoint isn't there.

A hidden question that the book slowly goes into the quality of these duplicates. The bodies range from very cheap and basic, to expensive, with all five senses, better brains, and even being specialized in concentration and the like. But... what if there's some parts of your personality that just don't make it over, or only do so sometimes? Albert actually produces very good dittoes, which helps with his work, and so this wrinkle doesn't show up at first, but becomes gradually more important later.

As a mystery... well, I'm not as much of an expert, but I'd call it good, as things hang together well, and all the twists make sense. The action gets fairly confused during the second half, and especially so at the climax, where there's a lot going on at once, presented through three different viewpoints (...and things take a turn for the strange). I had stopped paying as much attention to Brin after a couple books didn't impress me a lot, but this one has me back to wanting to catch up with his writing.
Profile Image for JBradford.
230 reviews3 followers
January 17, 2013
When I read Brin’s Existence last month, I apologized in my review about giving it five stars, which I do not normally do for novels, but I had to do it not only because of the outstanding story but also and mostly because of the sheer talent displayed by the author. So—I went out in search of other things by Brin, and now I want to give this one six or seven stars! This novel is an incredible tour-de-force by a extremely intelligent writer who clearly loves to play with his writing skills. As with that other book, I rather expect that a lot of readers will not agree with me. My beloved wife would have stopped reading before getting through half a dozen of the numbered sections, and I doubt my beloved sister-in-law could even be convinced to get that far.

To begin with, the plot is utterly fantastic and I expect most conservatives would put it down as pure nonsense--which it is, I agree. But the writing is so well done that I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the work itself, as a piece of art. Just as an example of what I am talking about--I recently read a first book by a new author, which I had to mark down to two stars because the dialog was simply unacceptable; I could not bring myself to believe that real people would say the things those characters did, in the circumstance they were experiencing. In this book, however, the unbelievable characters are experiencing unbelievable situations, and the dialog is perfectly acceptable; if there were such characters, and if these things happened to them, I could see them saying what they said.

In addition, I love the way Brin plays with language in making up new words, the meanings of which are obvious. Even more entertaining, he demonstrates throughout a remarkable sense of humor that provides outright laughs if not smiles on nearly every page--from the wit behind the puns at the beginning of most sections to the truly funny way he comments as the omnipotent author about the things that are happening to his characters, or has his characters comment about what is going on. This is truly a funny book, which is rather rare in science fiction. Oh yes--didn’t I tell you? This is science fiction, truly hard science fiction, and it has enough science to give you a headache--all carefully explained in reasoned accounts that seem so real I want to go check on Google to see if there really were such people! I noted on Brin’s Webpage that he intends to write a “comic” science fiction novel but questions whether that can be done. I really want to read anything that is funnier than this one!

Kiln People presupposes that some very smart scientists in the previous generation found a way to animate specially-made clay replicas of people by copying the mental processes and elan of the source person into a clay replica, which then gets baked in an oven to produce a life-size (or very much otherwise!) figure that walks and talks and thinks, but with a strong proviso: the replica can only survive for approximately 24 hours, after which it begins to disintegrate--and by the end of which time the replica is supposed to get back to the original and download all the memories of what it has experienced during the day. In the amazing world that Brin creates from this, people no longer work; instead, they send out copies of themselves to do the work. That hardly scratches the surface of this strange world--it does not begin to tell you about the different capabilities possessed by the duplicates, which come in a wide range of colors: ebony for highly intelligent copies (perhaps more so than their originals), white for highly emotional or sensual copies, gray for superior skills and adaptability, green for pure grunt work labor, etc.--all available at different costs and with different specialized abilities. Can you picture this? Can you conceive of this brave new world, that has such creatures in it?

Now picture a private detective, who for years has been trying to capture a master criminal with an incredible skill at disguise. On a given day, our esteemed detective, Albert Morris (who is a little down because his girlfriend, who lives on a houseboat when she is not living in, is off fighting a war, which in this world is a sporting event), bakes up three different copies of himself: a high-functioning gray to carry on the research and business interactions of his detective business, another slightly less expensive gray to go to an important meeting in his place, and a labor grade green to mow the lawns and clean the toilets around the household, while he himself goes off to pursue his chase of the evildoer. Off they all go, on seemingly unrelated tasks, and things begin to happen to them, with their various adventures and misadventures interacting as they all become involved in the nefarious complicated plans of an arch villain, with the result that you get the story from four different points of view--and the story, which twists and turns through several levels of complexity, becomes more and more fantastic as events evolve.

David Brin is a trained scientist. If you go out to his Website and read through some of his philosophical musings, you will find that he has lots of very strong opinions, very different in many cases from mainstream thinking … and that he tends to personify any and all of these beliefs in his writings. Accordingly, the world that he creates builds from these ideas of where we are heading with exponentially developed cameras and television, artificial intelligence machines, our innate tendency to engage in conflict, etc. I am not sure that this is a world I would want to live in, but it is fascinating to read about.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,971 reviews850 followers
October 17, 2019
7/10 en 2006. Media de los 5 libros leídos del autor : 6,5/10

A ver , Brin es uno de los supuestos monstruos de la CF de finales del siglo XX. Gano todos los premios grandes : Hugo, Nébula, Locus y Campbell. Dicho esto ninguna de sus novelas me pasaron del 7/10, lo que no es mucho para su reputación.

En esta novela independiente nos aparecen replicas de humanos con tiempo de vida limitado que se usan por el original y al final descargan los recuerdos de lo hecho en dicho original. Curioso, pero la forma de desarrollarlo no me gustó mucho.
Profile Image for Arthur.
19 reviews2 followers
December 21, 2008
Short review: Fascinated by the concept, but in the end ultimately let down by the plot.

Well, I have to say that I enjoyed the ride, but I didn't necessarily enjoy the destination very much. That is probably because I did not exactly understand the destination - the ending. I loved the idea of duplicating soul standing-waves and having many of yourselves running around. I particularly liked the characters, including the like-able "Pallie" in the form of a ferret side-kick. Pal was sort of reminiscent for me of Pantalaimon, Lyra's daemon in the Golden Compass. Too bad he was crushed to oblivion, but at least realPal got to inload some fragments of that ferret golem's memories. What was way to deep for my comprehension was ditYosil's strange experiment with Albert's gray and red ditto. I understood the basic concept that ditYosil yearned to become almost god-like and all powerful by riding some strange wave and consuming the souls of recently deceased thousands, but I only really got the gist of what was going on. And I didn't quite understand what happened to realalbert at the end. Did he unload himself into the gray ditto or did the gray unload into realalbert? And I was perturbed at the way the novel kept you hanging concerning Aeneas Kaolin's role (if any) in the prion attack on Universal Kilns and other events in the story. I was hoping for a "gotcha" moment on Kaolin but was left unsatisfied. All in all it was a great idea. But the plot that was built around that idea was full of holes , loose-ends, and far too complex for the average individual to understand what the hell was going on. Maybe only David Brin understands the intricacies of ditYosil's master experiment using Albert Morris.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Christopher McKitterick.
Author 12 books29 followers
September 28, 2010
KILN PEOPLE is the most fun I had reading a book in a long while, and highly inventive (despite what a few scholars have said - jealousy, I suspect). It's big, and it gets a bit long in the 3rd quarter of the book, but it's really worth the read. I love Brin's fresh look at the definition of "soul" and his toying with transcendence. All in a funny, suspenseful, intriguing page-turner. Great SF!

I went into KILN PEOPLE with a bit of hesitation, expecting yet another take
on cloning or golems, and ended up getting really sucked into the story. I think Brin does fabulous things with world-building and 3rd-tier extrapolations from the technologies in the book, and I constantly found myself asking the next question... which Brin then answered in ways I hadn't anticipated. Some of the characters are just wonderful, especially the "Frankie" hero-figure, and I appreciate how Brin took a completely... well, Brinish approach to the idea of "soul" (and, indeed, "soulistics"), having real fun with it - and sharing that fun with the reader along the way while transcending the SF detective genre, among other things.

The primary flaw is its length, and I don't so much fault Brin for this as I do his editor - 50 pages could easily have been trimmed, because much of it is repetitive or over-expository, and TOR should have chopped it. Even so, I'm more impressed by this book than by most anything I've read in a long while, and in fact the light tone serves the content well, much better than a serious tone would have.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dev Null.
317 reviews20 followers
May 25, 2009

A near-ish future detective story set in a world where people can make copies of themselves (dittos or dits) which they can then send off to do various tasks, only to download the memories back into the original at the end of the day.

Brin takes a truly weird idea for a technology, and then sets about looking at how it would change people and society - good ole fashioned speculative fiction - without getting all hung up on how the technology is supposed to work. His world had the off-kilter feel of something by Michael Marshall Smith, with a bit of the same humour, and the same edge and wryness we came to know and love from Brin in his Uplift books. The only faint blemish on this book - and it is faint - is also familiar from the end of the Uplifts; he seems to want his books to end in massive events of universe-shaking significance. In what otherwise felt like a detective story with a cool twist, the shift was a little abrupt (but only a little, and I loved it anyways.)

Definitely a keeper.
Profile Image for Христо Блажев.
2,206 reviews1,421 followers
June 14, 2015
Двойници на килограм: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/k...

Запознаването ми с Дейвид Брин започна отзад напред – прочетох първо “Битие”, а после и поредицата за Ъплифта, и в двата случая останах впечатлен. Наскоро в едни кашони за 5 лв. ми попадна и “Килн хора”, нямаше как да пропусна. Шантава книга, която всички фенове отдавна са чели, затова и няма да се разпростирам излишно върху нея.
Близкото бъдеще, в което технологията за създаване на глинени големи е променила революционно социалната и икономическата сфера. Различни по качество двойници се изпичат в ранната сутрин, впечатва им се съзнанието на човека, комуто са нужни, и придобили отведнъж всичко, което той знае, поемат да вършат конкретните задачи.

Издателска къща БАРД​
669 reviews27 followers
January 20, 2021
{4.5 rounded down}An interesting idea with a book using Golems as a sort of a mesh between androids and clones, presenting various themes of self awareness, individuality, human nature and potential growth. There are some tropes of cyberpunk here and various terms \ words taken from Jewish folklore, which served as a cool surprise. The first two thirds were composed as an old fashion film-noir detective story with multiple POVs along with overlap, which can be a bit confusing, though aligning quite well. However the last third had some out there ideas, which were hard to swallow mixing various elements that simply do not co-exist, creating a swamp of disbelief for the reader \ observer trying to traverse in one piece.
Profile Image for Ben.
530 reviews11 followers
September 18, 2012
I enjoyed this book just as much the second time around. While certain twists or plot developments were more obvious to me, and I found it a lot easier to see where Brin was going as my incomplete recollections of the story were prompted on, I got a lot more out the skill in which he wove the story together and his style of tell-telling.

Written from various different perspectives, all of which are that of one or another version of the main protagonist, Albert Morris, Brin uses various different voices and tenses from chapter to chapter. It is also interesting to see how he develops the characters in different ways, when they are all essentially the same person, simply experiencing different events over a short period of time. Seeing how the character(s) react the same way as well as differently is equally interesting, while keeping us mostly pleasantly free of unnecessary repitition.

The book is jam packed full of puns and plays on words and is amusing as well as exciting and reasonably fast paced. The plot is interesting and works well as a detective story as well as a science fiction novel. Brin wanders a little towards the end, getting a little bit too bogged down in the mystical aspects of the tale, and somewhat bizarrely the pace and rhythm of the plot staggers there too, even as he clearly tries to up the tension and pacing with faster and faster cuts between perspectives.

However, Brin offers us an enjoyable read which touches on some interesting issues of self and true identity. He presents a curious future world, which is both alluring and repellant at the same time with things being both better and worse, and the moral questions of the day being quite different to our own - though parallels can be seen with our society if we take certain things to be metaphors. For example, the issues of sex and fidelity with 'real' people or 'dittos' and what counts as cheating.

A very enjoyable book, crossing genres, which has the capacity to make you think and possessing of a dry sense of humour.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,630 reviews327 followers
August 21, 2017
What if we could make cheap copies of ourselves, and put them to work? Good book, if you missed it. Maybe I should reread it?

A new David Brin novel is always an event. He's not SF's best novelist, but you can count on him for cool ideas, likeable characters, and bedrock optimism -- all on display in Kiln People.

In a brave new world c. 2100, you can 'bake' short-lived duplicates of yourself, and send them off to do, well, pretty much anything that catches your fancy. The heart of your home copier is the
tetragramatron [!], which scans your soul and imprints your Standing Wave onto cheap, clay-based blanks.

"Most heroes have feet of clay, but Albert Morris, Private
Investigator, has more than that, being clay from head to toe.

Not the original Albert, of course, but all the copies that he warms
up in his home kiln to send out into the world and do his legwork, run
his errands, and occasionally get shot or hacked to pieces."
-- Ernest Lilley, 2002 review, no longer online

KP's plot exists to trot out Brin's cool extrapolations, which follow John Campbell's dictate to allow one impossible idea per story, then ring the changes, if this "what-if" came true. Another prominent part of the backstory is Brin's "Transparent Society," or security through
universal snooping, which is a better idea than it might seem at first glance -- but Brin does get a bit preachy about it. He does a better job with technology-as-destiny, with the light of science pushing back the darkness of superstition with each big discovery. And I like the quotes, allusions and references to earlier SF throughout the book.

"More than any writer I know, David Brin can take scary, important
problems and turn them sideways, revealing wonderful opportunities.
This talent shows strongly in Kiln People, a novel which is deep
and insightful and often hilarious, all at the same time."
--Vernor Vinge, cover blurb.

My 2002 review, with lots of (mostly dead) links:
Profile Image for icowdave.
2 reviews3 followers
February 28, 2010
As much as I like David Brin's work, I just could not finish this book. No problems with the writing per se but the story was really ridiculous.

In the future, everyone has an in-home kiln that they use to make life-like robotic clay duplicates of themselves. You get up in the morning lay down on the machine with a blank next to you and imprint your consciousness on the ditto. You send it out to mow the grass or to the office to work in your place etc. There are different types of dittos for different tasks and each has a specific color. Make a green dit to do mundane chores, they're cheap to produce, but for work you'd make a gray as they're more suited for complex thinking. White ones will have sex for you if you can't be bothered to show up in person. If you're a waiter you make a yellow or two and off to work they go doubling your income etc. At the end of the day your dittos die so they have to be home before they expire so they can download the day's memories back into your brain. Need I go on?

When I read I try to picture the world I'm reading about. With Kiln People it was a cartoon world over-run by giant Gummy Bear people. I Could not take it seriously and had to bail after 140 pages. I only stuck with it that long because I just read Dune, glorious book that it is, and I thought it was the comparison that was killing Kiln People for me. Nope. It was the gummies.

This was a massive disappointment. Read anything else you like from Brin but steer clear of this one.
Profile Image for Tracey.
2,031 reviews48 followers
December 31, 2020
previously read 1 Mar 2003

I am fascinated by the concept of the "dittos" -- an temporary, alternate self that you can imprint your self/soul onto - and then download its experiences at the end of the day. Brin explores this technology and its potential effects on human society in detail - through the structure of a mystery.

The main character, Albert Morris, is a private investigator (you can imagine how helpful the dittos are to him!) and is investigating the disappearance/murder of one of the developers of the copying technology. He is also involved in an ongoing investigation of bootleg copying of famous people - with the two tasks entwining in surprising ways.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Albert and his dittos - we learn bits and pieces of what's going on from different viewpoints - with the story only finally coming together right at the end.

I suppose the re-readability of this novel depends on your long-term memory... fortunately, I'd forgotten most of the plot details and was therefore able to enjoy the mystery and its denouement about as much as I did the first time!
Profile Image for Chessa.
720 reviews58 followers
February 25, 2009
This was a GREAT book. Fans of Snow Crash or Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon would love this, too. Albert is a detective in a world where "dittoing" - making copies of yourself - makes the world turn. Instead of working, people make copies of themselves (different color golems = different skills and different prices) to do their work for them - a green to wash your toilets and run errands, an ebony to do very detail oriented tasks, etc. War is run much like a football game, only with even more expendable players.

Good ole Albert gets caught up in a twisted game of betrayal and technological advancement when he's hired to investigate the apparent murder of a scientist involved with dittoing technology. What a whirlwind! A great SF-noir book, with clever puns and just the right kind of irreverence. Highly recommended!
54 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2009
Kiln People is an intriguing book on several levels. Although set several generations into the future, it deals with important issues like identity, "souls", race, technology, and self-actualization. Who is Albert, really? Does he have core character traits? Without his memories, would he be the same person? These questions are addressed in this book. Additionally, while differences based on today's ideas of race have supposedly disappeared, the divisions in the future society are based on whether a person is born from a woman or a kiln. Within the kiln people, there is a hierarchy, additionally. Technology plays an enormous role in the society to the reduction of privacy. Is technology good, evil, or unimportant? Finally, I believe that the book addressed the importance of self-actualization. How do we creatively impact our world?

What does it mean to be human?

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Wayne.
44 reviews2 followers
September 7, 2009
some creepy guy (who looked just like the simpsons' comic book guy) recommended this to me in my favorite used book store. he claimed it should have won Hugo instead of Neil Gaiman. I was hooked from the beginning, partially because the premise of the novel resonated with me. It was a fantastic read up until the last third of the book, which takes place over approximately ten minutes of the story's timeline. Some authors don't know how to edit.
Profile Image for Jonathan Lupa.
646 reviews5 followers
April 9, 2012
Though in some ways the ending was a little big for me, in general, this was an absolutely terrific bit of sci-fi mystery. The treatment of the cloning topics was terrific, and the storytelling was more than compelling enough to pull you through some of the more recitative sections.

I think the bottom line for me is that I need to go through this mans Bibliography and read them all.
Profile Image for Fuzzy Cow.
168 reviews2 followers
July 3, 2021
Albert Morris lives in interesting times. He is a private investigator living in a world where an average individual can have multiple personas, called Dittos, running around doing their bidding. This time also comes with public access to any street cam or hobbyist with a camera, meaning that only the truly dedicated can pull off subterfuge.

This book has a lot of very interesting ideas. The way that David Brin plays with the "Soul Imprinting" technology, and how people use this technology to achieve their own varied goals is really quite creative. The mystery he develops, and the way that Albert and his many dittos go about investigating it are also quite clever and interesting. Unfortunately there is a stumbling block, and that occurs at the finish line.

There are a few important themes in this book, the the one that seems more recurring is the nature of "Godhood." This idea is explored in a few different ways, but start from page 300 or so, this book comes to a halt to explore one specific version of "Godhood." This exploration continues for about 100 pages. True, there are small stories spliced between the heavy handed expositions and treaties on what "becoming God" means, but I would say about a fifth of the book is dedicated to one hyper stilted exploration of this idea. That's a lot to ask from the reader, especially when it comes at the end of a book that proved itself to be agile and clever.

This book is very interesting. It's so well thought out and insanely detailed. But then it starts to drag and by the end I was wondering why I was still reading it. In this book there is an INCREDIBLE 350 sci-fi/mystery page-turner. But that's not what we have. I think most people will enjoy starting it, but don't start it if you feel compulsed to finish it.
Profile Image for Lucian Bogdan.
291 reviews15 followers
April 26, 2022
Mi s-a părut excelentă.

Fiecare om își permite să-și producă, zilnic, copii de lut ale sale. Culoarea lor e un indiciu privind calitatea (ce sunt capabile să facă) - unele sunt complexe, necesare pentru munci importante, altele sunt pentru activități de rutină, ori pentru confruntări etc. La finalul zilei, copiile se distrug; dacă au apucat să revină acasă, la omul real, acesta poate încărca în mintea sa experiențele lor - lucrul extrem de util dacă ești detectiv, precum protagonistul Albert Morris. Sau, uneori - cum e tot cazul lui - te poți trezi că ți se înscenează ceva prin intermediul copiilor ce ajung să fie contractate să lucreze unele împotriva altora.

Întotdeauna mă aștept de la David Brin la ceva de calitate, atât din punct de vedere al ideii, cât și al realizării. Romanul de față mi-a îndeplinit așteptările. O idee interesantă, frumos exploatată, o găselniță tehnică aparte (cum poți scrie la persoana întâi, dar să scapi de limitările impuse de aceasta și să utilizezi perspective multiple), o intrigă solidă, condusă cu mână de maestru și - plăcerea mea deosebită - o atmosferă luminoasă. Adică în carte se produc multe lucruri urâte, dar stilul lui Brin nu dă impresia de apăsare, lipsă de speranță, degradare, pesimim. El reușește să insufle acel ceva ce apare și în scrierile lui Verne sau Asimov - încredere, o doză de optimism. Chiar am făcut o paralelă între „Kiln People” și „Carbon modificat” a lui Morgan, care, tratând o temă oarecum din aceeași familie, păstrează mereu o atmosferă întunecată.

O carte care mi-a mers la suflet, un SF de-ăla, cum îmi place mie!
Profile Image for Mitchell Friedman.
4,572 reviews171 followers
May 28, 2019
A re-read. And better than I remember but also bigger and slower and more complicated. I'm also more accepting of Brin's generally not good endings - maybe because I expect less. I read this for a business trip I took to DC. Usually I'd expect to read a book on the flight each way and a book during the trip. But for this trip it ended up being just this one. Maybe I'm reading slower, maybe I'm not focusing as well. Or maybe it was the complexity of this book.

Basically this book is a detective book with a lot of ideas and twists, and a few more twists than it really needs. And with Brin's trademark one twist too far ending.

But the characters are always interesting and the version of daily clones enough different from everything else I've seen.
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